11 Jul

Over and out for the Lions
by Rick Boyd
11 Jul 2005

A bit of a damp squib to end the series as was always likely with the rubber already decided.

A few good signs for the Lions with an improved lineout performance and better competition in the loose but with only three tries scored in the entire series, they really have nothing to take home but bitter defeat.

But it wasn’t the Lions that did the most damage to the All Blacks in the third test, but two first class idiots, one with a whistle and one with a flag. Japie “ref” Kraplan did his best to threaten Dickheadson’s superglue hold on the World Heavyweight Joke Referee title, but Dickheadson’s superb supporting performance from the sidelines kept him safely in front.

An utter joke of a yellow card by Kraplan on Umaga in the opening stages of the game before any warnings could be issed, and the exact same offence by Moody later in the game allowed the pom to stay on the field. Kraplan, you are as shite as McHugh. Some of Kraplan’s other calls were just plain mystifying. Held in the tackle? How many nano-seconds could it have been? He penalised Collins when the All Blacks wheeled the scrum. Why? Silly, pedantic little Krap decisions all night that had nothing to do with the game. And the late charge call on Collins that disallowed Sivivatu’s excellent try — what a complete joke. Very, very marginal and absolutely nothing to do with the play. What about the Lions lock penalised for jersey pulling? He held the player without the ball later in the game and was penalsied but was there any card? Yet Umaga got one without any prior offence. What a farce.

Back to the All Blacks — great run by Conrad Smith for an excellent solo try. We’ll be seeing lots more of this boy in the future.

Hey poms, remember how you crowed about that wonderful England team that didn’t concede points despite losing two players from the field? (With generous help from Dickheadson). Guess which team scored 14 points while a player down? Hint: it wasn’t the Lions.

But all round, not a very encouraging game for the All Blacks. Silly errors creeping in, knock ons, turnovers, a few lineouts botched. Probably not the same level of motivation as in the two previous games but we don’t want to go the way of 2004 and crush the early season opposition only to paddle gaily up Shit Creek in the Tri-Nations.

Despite the dominance New Zealand displayed over the Lions, only the lightweights will 100% confident with the Tri-Nations coming up.

No one who understands rugby and has seen the All Blacks play for the last ten years could currently possess one grain of confidence in their winning the Tri Nations games.

They have diplayed zero consistency in recent years and are quite capable of playing hard, mistake-free dominant rugby one month (v England 2004 for instance) and collapsing in a spectacular shower of shit directionless headless chicken orgy of errors a month later (v Australia in Australia and South Africa in South Africa 2004).

Having seen the All Blacks defeat the Lions this year, I am absolutely confident they have the ability to beat any other team on the planet. But I have not the tiniest shred of confidence that they will actually produce that ability on the paddock and turn it into points, reliably, in every game, or even most games, in the remainder of the year.

But I digress.

The fact is the Lions weren’t as bad as some might think. There will be a danger from gloating, overconfident New Zealand lightweights and vindictive, bitter British Isles lightweights alike; to bag the 2005 Lions as being complete failures.

Certainly they had their shortcomings but to base an analysis of the series solely on the test scores is very short sighted.

International tours have changed and Woodward is right in at least one regard — a much fairer judgement would be held in a neutral setting with neutral season timing. Not at the world cup, as Sir Clive suggests though. That tournament doesn’t produce much but a winner based on a knockout lottery. But sending a team exhausted from a marathon NH season south into foreign conditions against a fresh local team puts the tourists at a huge disadvantage before they kick off the first game. I doubt anyone in the British Isles has sufficient vison to realise that the lesson to be learned from this tour is that the national unions need to buy up the players contracts, cut the clubs out of the picture and send a Lions team that is actually “the best prepared Lions in history” by having carefully developed and rested players peaking for the ultimate rugby challenge, rather than just a cast of thousands and an army of hangers-on completly fagged by playing an all-sorts selection of club competitions and the Six Nations B Division.

And then there was the injury count. Not surprising after a long NH season, and it didn’t help the cause at all.

It should also be remembered that the modern game favours attack and small margins of dominance can result in magnified scores that don’t necessarily reflect the play.

The first test was played in the wet and the Lions were a horribly disjointed combination. In that game the score probably flattered the Lions. It should have been played by a settled Lions test combination of form six nations players playing in about their fourth match together as a team.

The second and third tests were closer in play but not in scores. The All Blacks played very well in the first two tests and it is doubtful if the Lions could have beaten them even in good form.

I’m not about to write the Lions off. The tour was not a fair reflection on their ability and while I certainly rejoice in the good, solid, consistent efforts of the All Blacks and their 3-0 series win; I gain little satisfaction from seeing them heavily defeat a Lions team put at such a disadvantage.

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